What Are Illinois Contractors?
The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation is the primary agency responsible for the regulation of professionals in the state, and it licenses over 1 million professionals and firms through its Division of Professional Regulation. This includes healthcare-related professionals like pharmacists, dentists, physicians, and surgeons, as well as occupational professionals like architects, engineers, and roofing contractors. However, except for roofing contractors and plumbing contractors, the regulation of general contractors and home improvement and repair contractors is typically handled at the local government level in Illinois. Note that although roofing contractors are regulated by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, the licensing and regulation of plumbing contractors is handled by the Illinois Department of Public Health. It is estimated that there are approximately more than 10,900 licensed plumbers and apprentice plumbers in the State of Illinois.
Tips for Hiring a Contractor
Considering that there is no state-level regulation of general contractors and home improvement and repair contractors in Illinois, it is necessary to take certain precautions when hiring these contractors. Doing this ensures that you hire a contractor that is qualified enough to handle your project professionally. Some helpful tips for hiring a contractor in Illinois are:
- Get bids from at least three contractors
- Always ask for references. You can also look up reviews on the contractors online through websites like Better Business Bureau and Google Review
- Contact your local consumer protection agency to find out the licensing requirements for the type of contractor that you intend to employ and make sure that the contractor meets these requirements. If you are having roofing or plumbing work done, then you can verify the state-issued licenses for these contractors online
- Make sure that the contractor is properly insured and bonded
- Ensure that the contractor obtains all the necessary permits for the project. You can find out the permit requirements of your project by contacting your local building department
- Properly document all paperwork related to the project. It is also advisable to take pictures of the project as it progresses
- Find out whether any part of your project will be subcontracted to other workers
- Request a written contract for the project and make sure that it notes the total cost of the project, a description of the project, and estimated start and finish dates of the project. It is also a good idea for the contract to state that any additional charges not included in it must be authorized by you in advance
- Never sign a contract that contains blank spaces or sections that you do not understand. It is advisable to get an attorney to help you review contracts before signing. Note that if the cost of the project is more than $1,000, the contractor is required to provide you with a “Home Repair: Know Your Consumer Rights” pamphlet from the Illinois Attorney General
- Never pay the full cost of the project upfront. You should always limit initial payments to a maximum of 25% of the cost of the project. It is also a good idea to use payment methods like checks, money orders, and credit cards instead of cash
- Always collect a receipt for any payments that you make
- Do not sign a certificate of completion or make complete payment for the project until the work has been properly done to your satisfaction
- Demand lien waivers from the contractor as wells as any subcontractors or suppliers to confirm that payment has been received and that any future lien rights to your property have been waived
How to Search A Contractor's License in Illinois?
Only plumbing and roofing contractors are required to obtain a state license in Illinois. Licensure for general contractors and other specialties are left to individual municipalities in the state. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) regulates the plumbing trade while roofing contractors are licensed by the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR).
To verify a contractor's license in Illinois, contact your local government to determine the status of such license. For example, in the city of Chicago the Department of Buildings is responsible for administering trade licenses while in Aurora, the licensing authority is the Department of Building and Permits. Where the contractor is a plumber, you can verify the license online via the Plumbing License Verification page on the IDPH website. For roofing contractors, use the IDFPR License Lookup page.
The penalties for contracting without a license in Illinois are set by the relevant authorities. Typically, these penalties include civil fines. For example, the IDFPR charges an unlicensed roofing contractor up to $10,000 in fines in accordance with the Illinois Roofing Industry Licensing Act.
How Much Does a Contractor Charge in
Contractor costs in Illinois vary by location and job requirements. Generally, the average cost of hiring a home improvement and repair contractor in the state is $70 - $120 per hour. Some hourly cost estimates for specific home improvement and repair contractors in Illinois are listed below:
Note that when you hire a home improvement and repair contractor, it is always in your best interest to retain the services of an attorney to help you with tasks like reviewing contracts and ensuring that all required documents are properly drafted. The cost of retaining the services of attorneys in Illinois usually depends on your location and the type of task that the attorney will be required to perform. Attorneys in rural or small-town areas typically charge an average of $100 - $200 per hour for their services, while attorneys in big towns and cities typically charge an average of $200 - $400.
What Are Home Improvement
Scams in Illinois?
When you employ a home improvement and repair contractor, there is always the possibility that the contractor might be out to scam you. Per the Illinois Home Repair Fraud Act, a home improvement scam is said to occur when a contractor gets a homeowner to enter into a home improvement and repair contract through deceptive means. This may be by exaggerating a problem that needs repair, intentionally damaging property so that the homeowner will require the contractor's services, pretending to be a government employee, or receiving payment without properly doing the required job. According to the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, home repair and remodeling complaints topped its list of consumer complaints in 2019, with more than 2,000 complaints submitted to the office by Illinoisans.
The risk of hiring a fraudulent home improvement and repair contractor can be greatly reduced by carrying out due diligence before hiring a contractor. Have a clear idea of the project that you need to undertake and get referrals from friends and family where possible. You should also never allow yourself to be pressured into signing any contracts. Always take out time to read and understand any contract that you are given. It is advisable to retain the services of an attorney to help you with this process. You should also contact your local consumer protection agency to find out whether there are any licensing requirements for the type of home improvement and repair contractor that you intend to hire. Finally, if you suspect that a contractor is a home improvement scammer or that you have been victimized by one, you should file a complaint with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.
What are Common Home Improvement Scams in Illinois?
Deceptive and exploitative home improvement and repair contractors use several schemes to try to fraudulently obtain money from unsuspecting Illinoisans. These schemes include attempting to frighten homeowners by claiming that their property has code violations or health hazards that require urgent fixing or claiming to offer discounts on repairs because they have leftover supplies from a previous job. These contractors may also claim to be representatives of your insurance company and try to convince unsuspecting homeowners that any job they do will be covered by their insurance. Sadly, many of these schemes are often directed at elderly Illinoisans, who are considered soft targets that are more likely to have cash on hand. Therefore, it is important to recognize the signs of a potential home improvement scam. You should always be wary when a contractor does any of the following:
- Pays an unsolicited visit to you or contacts you out of the blue
- Insists that the repairs to your home must be done urgently
- Pressures you into making on-the-spot decisions
- Claims to have leftover materials from a previous job
- Provides an estimate that does not tally with any other estimates you have received
- Offers to take you to your bank to withdraw funds for the project
- Drives a vehicle that is unmarked or has out-of-state license plates
- Can only be reached via an answering service
- Requests full payment for the job upfront
- Demands cash payments or asks for a check that is made payable to a third party
The following tips have been carefully curated to help you reduce your chances of falling victim to the schemes of deceptive and exploitative home improvement and repair contractors:
- Get no less than three estimates for your project and get these estimates in writing
- Resist high-pressure sales tactics
- Always remember that if an offer seems “too good to be true”, then it probably is
- Get references and reviews on the contractor. You should also find out how long the contractor has been in business
- Make sure that the contractor meets the licensing requirements of your locality. Also, confirm that the contractor is properly insured and bonded
- Find out whether you will be offered any warranties for the project
- Make sure that the contract you are offered contains the contractor’s full name and contact details, a description of the work that is to be done, an estimated timeline for the job, the total cost of the project, and a payment schedule
- Get an attorney to help you review the contract if you do not understand it. You should also never sign any contract that has blank spaces
- Get lien waivers
- Never pay the full cost of the project upfront. Even though Illinois does not have any laws that specify the amount of money a contractor can request as an initial payment, you should never pay an upfront fee of more than 25% of the cost of the project
- Do not make final payment until the work has been completed to your satisfaction and all subcontractors have been duly paid
- Always remember that you have the right to cancel any contracts that were signed at your home within three business days
If you have any problems during your home improvement project, you should try to resolve them with your contractor. However, if you suspect that you are dealing with a fraudulent contractor and that you might be the victim of a home improvement scam, then you should file a complaint with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office as soon as possible. In February 2021, this office announced that criminal charges had been filed against a home repair and improvement contractor that had defrauded Illinoisans out of thousands of dollars by failing to complete projects that had been agreed upon. If convicted on all charges, the contractor could receive a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.
What are Disaster Scams in Illinois?
Unscrupulous contractors typically take advantage of disasters to exploit vulnerable Illinoisans that require urgent home repair services. As such, if your home has been affected by a disaster, it is important to keep your guard up when hiring a home repair contractor so that you do not end up with subpar work and losing much-required funds. Listed below is a checklist that you should follow if you want to hire a contractor in the aftermath of a natural or man-made disaster:
- Be wary of door-to-door contractors. These types of contractors are usually transient con artists that are drawn to disaster areas
- Do not rush into hiring a contractor. Shop around for the best deal possible and get estimates from at least three contractors
- Always ask for recommendations from trusted friends and family members. It is also advisable to always use established local contractors as much as possible
- Call the consumer fraud hotline of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office at 1-800-243-0618 to find out whether there have been any consumer complaints filed against the contractor
- Be wary of contractors that provide only a telephone or post office box number as their contact information
- Consider it a red flag if a contractor cannot provide you with at least three verifiable references
- Make sure that the contractor you intend to hire is properly licensed per state or local government requirements. You can contact the consumer protection agency responsible for your locality to find out what these requirements are
- Always ask for a written contract that includes all the terms of your agreement with the contractor. It is advisable to let an experienced attorney review this contract before you sign it
- Remember that you have the right to cancel contracts that were signed on your premises within three business days
- Never pay the full cost of the project until it has been completed to your satisfaction. If you have to make any initial payments, then this payment should not exceed 25% of the total cost of the project
- Do not pay with cash or checks that are made payable to a person or company that is not the contractor or the contractor’s company
- Report all suspected disaster scammers and fraudulent home repair contractors to the Illinois Attorney General’s Office
What are Common Legal
Work Scams in Illinois?
According to the American Bar Association's Profile of the Legal Profession 2020 report, Illinois has the sixth largest concentration of attorneys in the country, with a rate of 4.9 active attorneys per 1,000 residents. However, this concentration of attorneys in the state increases the risk of unsuspecting Illinoisans falling victim to scams carried out by con artists posing as attorneys, courtroom officials, or individuals that need legal representation. Some of the common legal work scams carried out by con artists in Illinois are:
- Jury duty scams: in these scams, a con artist posing as a court official contacts an unsuspecting Illinoisan claiming that the person ignored a jury duty summons and that an arrest warrant has been issued because of this. This con artist then proceeds to ask the person questions for what is supposed to be a “verification process” to cancel the warrant. The main aim of this scam is to obtain sensitive personal information like the victim’s date of birth, social security number, and bank details. In some cases, the con artist may also try to obtain money from their victims by asking them to pay a fine to cancel the warrant.
- Real estate scams: these scams are mostly targeted at Illinois attorneys that handle real estate transactions. Here, the con artist contacts an attorney to close a real estate transaction. At the end of the transaction, the con artist receives a check from the attorney for the proceeds of the sale, then leaves. After a few minutes, the con artist returns and asks if the attorney can wire the money to a bank account instead. If the attorney agrees, then the con artist returns the check and leaves again. In reality, the con artist has already deposited the check via a mobile app. Because many attorneys forget to cancel the returned checks, they end up paying the con artist twice for the same transaction. A variant of this scam involves the con artist claiming to be an overseas buyer of a property, sending a counterfeit cashier’s check to the attorney, and then requesting that a portion of the funds be wired to an alleged business partner in a different country. Because it usually takes a while for checks to clear, the attorney usually does not find out that the deposited check is fake until it is too late
Some steps that you can take to avoid falling victim to legal work scams in Illinois include:
- Never give out sensitive personal information to unknown callers. Hang up immediately this happens and report the incident to your local police station
- Never click on links included in any emails that you receive from an unknown sender
- Be wary of email solicitations from prospective clients. If you think that the email is genuine, reply and ask for a contact phone number
- Always trust your gut. If someone or something feels suspicious, carry out proper research and do your due diligence
- If you are concerned that you may be a victim of a jury duty scam or any other form of identity theft, contact the Illinois Attorney General’s identity theft hotline at 1-866-999-5630
How Long Does it Take to Get a Contractor License in
Contractor licenses in Illinois are typically issued locally by counties, cities, towns, and municipalities, and the length of time that it takes to obtain these licenses depends on the agency that is responsible for issuing them. For example, per the Illinois Plumbing License Law, examinations for plumbing license applicants are held at least once every three months. Qualified applicants that are interested in partaking in these examinations must submit an application to the state's Department of Public Health no later than 30 days before the examination date.
You can contact your local consumer protection agency to find out the agency responsible for licensing contractors in your area of residence as well as the requirements and processing time for obtaining these licenses.
How to Maintain Your License in Illinois
Contractors that have been issued licenses in Illinois are typically required to update the information that was used in obtaining these licenses. This may include name changes, contact detail changes, and company restructurings. The procedures for doing this, as well as any other mandatory license maintenance requirements, are determined by the agency that issued the license in question. For example, per state law, plumbing contractors are mandatorily required to inform the Illinois Department of Public Health concerning any changes in their licensing information within 15 days at:
- Illinois Department of Public Health
- Plumbing Program
- 525 W. Jefferson Street
- 3rd Floor
- Springfield, IL 62761
- Phone: (217) 524-0791
Plumbing contractors are also required to complete a maximum of 15 hours of continuing education every year and maintain general liability, bodily insurance, property damage, and worker’s compensation insurance coverage.
Similarly, roofing contractors can update changes to the contact information on their licenses online. However, name changes must be done in writing by completing and submitting a Name and Address Change Form to:
- Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation
- Division of Professional Regulation - LAU
- 320 West Washington Street
- Springfield, IL 62786
Note that plumbing and roofing contractors are the only general contractors and home improvement and repair contractors that require state-level licensing in Illinois. To find out the requirements for maintaining other types of contractor licenses, you should contact your local licensing agency.
On the other hand, Illinois attorneys are required to report any change in their registered addresses to the state’s Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission within 30 days. This can be done online or by completing and submitting an ARDC Change of Registration Address Form via email, in person, or mail-in to:
- Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission
- Attn: Registration Department
- 130 East Randolph Drive
- Suite 1500
- Chicago, IL 60601-6219
However, attorneys that want to change their registered names can only do so by filing a motion with the Clerk of the Supreme Court at:
- Clerk of the Supreme Court of Illinois
- Supreme Court Building
- 200 East Capitol
- Springfield, IL 62701
Note that these attorneys will be required to provide documentation evidencing this name change.
Finally, newly licensed Illinois attorneys are required to complete 15 hours of Mandatory Continuing Legal Education during their first two years of practicing, and 30 hours of this education over each two-year reporting period after that.
How to Renew a Contractor License in
The procedure and requirements for renewing a contractor license in Illinois are determined by the licensing agency that issued the license. For example, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation allows roofing contractors to renew their licenses online via its license renewal portal. However, this renewal can only be done approximately two-three months before the expiration date that is listed on the license. Contractors that are unsure of their license expiration date can get this information through the department's license lookup webpage. Likewise, plumbing contractors are required to renew their licenses by the 30th of April every year. Renewal notices are typically mailed to plumbing contractors about two-three months before this date. Plumbing contractor license renewals can be done online or by completing and submitting an Application for Registration or Renewal form to:
- Illinois Department of Public Health
- Plumbing Program
- 525 W. Jefferson Street
- 3rd Floor
- Springfield, IL 62761
- Phone: (217) 524-0791
Similarly, Illinois attorneys are also required to complete annual registrations with the state’s Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. This registration is usually done online via the attorney’s registration portal and it typically includes reporting information like pro bono services offered, trust accounts, and malpractice insurance as well as paying annual registration fees.
Queries concerning this registration process can be directed to the Registration Department of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission via email or by calling (312) 565–2600 between the hours of 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Mondays to Fridays.